Get access

A Public Health Approach to Safeguarding in the 21st Century


Professor Rachel Calam, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester, Zochonis Building, Brunswick Street, Manchester M13 9PL. E-mail:


Recent government policy has focused on the provision of a safe environment for all children. Parenting support is increasingly being recognised as a core method of safeguarding children, and this is of particular importance, given the widespread prevalence of maltreatment and poor parenting practices, the overwhelming number of child protection referrals and the inherent flaws in risk assessment. Until recently, there was no formulation of an overall model of practice based on these changes. In this paper, we present compelling reasons for believing that a public health approach to safeguarding is the only way of ensuring that all children are protected within a population, including children at high risk. The rationale for the delivery of such a model is presented alongside the application of one such evidence-based population-level strategy, which has been demonstrated to reduce population-level indicators of maltreatment. Novel approaches to the delivery of parenting interventions including media-based strategies are discussed in terms of their potential for reaching families who may be missed by traditional services. The economic aspects of a public health model are discussed, and their relevance for middle- and low-income countries. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

‘Parenting support is increasingly being recognised as a core method of safeguarding children‘